Al Muskovitz’s finds humorous tales from people’s experiences hiding the afikoman on Passover.
By Alan Muskovitz, Contributing Writer
Whether you’re 9 years old or 90, you probably have a fond memory of the hiding of the afikoman during a Passover seder; whether you were the one charged with concealing it or if you’re a kid who has enjoyed the reconnaissance mission in search of it.
For our non-Jewish friends or the uniformed reader, afikoman is not the former Secretary General of the United Nations. That would be Kofi Annan. And after much forethought, I’ve decided to stick with saying “afikoman,” although today it would be politically correct to refer to it instead as “afikoperson.”
We all know the matzah basics. Bread that was supposed to bake for an hour at 350 degrees was cut short by our peoples’ hastened Exodus from Egypt. So, technically, matzah became the Jews first carryout meal. The hiding of the afikoman is, of course, just one of the many symbolic moments during our seders that serve to remind us of our escape from bondage.
My mission was to find some humorous anecdotes that arose out of the traditional hiding, finding and awarding of a prize for discovering the afikoman. Thank you to the following folks for sharing recollections from their matzah madness past.
From Ronelle Grier, my esteemed fellow JN writer and author: “While my mother, Esther Rosenthal of blessed memory, was a creative and successful businesswoman (she owned The Paper Place in Applegate Square), housekeeping was not one of her priorities. One Passover, she hid the afikoman as usual, and we were dispatched to look for it at the appropriate time. No one could find it and, eventually, we gave up the hunt in favor of chocolate-covered matzah and sponge cake.” But wait, there’s more!
Added Ronelle: “I guess my mother was busy in the kitchen and was unaware it hadn’t been found. Several years later, when my parents were packing up the house to move to a condo, they found the afikoman. It was still in its original hiding place, on top of an antique breakfront in the dining room.”
For my cousin Sylvia in Toronto, the finding of the afikoman provided a life-changing bargaining chip. Says Sylvia: “I was 17 and my religious parents wouldn’t let me drive. I got the afikoman and held it ransom until well after midnight until my parents agreed to let me get my license so they could end the seder. But then my mother wouldn’t give me her car. So I bought my own car with my part-time cashier and teller money!”
Sylvia attributes her staunch independence and success as a business woman to that fateful matzah mediation. By the way, for you kids attending a seder across the border, keep in mind that a Canadian dollar awarded for finding the afikoman is only worth 75 cents U.S.
My friend Linda Zyla lovingly recalls her grandparent’s Passover gatherings.
“My maternal grandparents were larger than life,” Linda said. And so were their Passover seders. “Grandpa Morris stuck to the book. Service before dinner, enormous dinner and then service after dinner. No corners were cut. Everything by the book; including the bitter herbs.”
It turns out though, that Linda’s grandmother was at the forefront of creating a whole new twist of hiding the afikoman. Said Linda, “Grandma Ann knew that her grandkids didn’t like eating the bitter herbs — what kid does? So, to protect her precious grandchildren from bitterness of any kind, she would come sit with us during the partaking of the bitter herbs and slip the parsley into her large apron pockets. Boy, do I miss those seders.”
I, for one, would like to see our Passover Haggadot rewritten to incorporate the hiding of the bitter herbs.
I’m looking forward to our family’s two seders. And frankly, since I regularly put my keys, glasses and cell phone somewhere where I can’t find them; I will volunteer as the most qualified to hide the afikoman. As a matter of fact, I think I’ll just hide my keys with the matzah and give the kid who finds them an extra buck.
Speaking of which, this year, as an act of tzedakah, our family has agreed to pool all the afikoman prize money and donate it to Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman’s kids to pay for their new university admissions.
I hope your families create their own great afikoman-finding stories this Passover. For a final word about matzah, I leave you with the sage advice of the one and only Jeff Zaslow who reminded people in his speeches that matzah could be very binding. That’s why he created Fiber Matzah, whose slogan is “Let My People Go.”
Alan Muskovitz is a writer, voice-over/acting talent, speaker, and emcee. Visit his website at laughwithbigal.com,“Like” Al on Facebook and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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